Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

The time of our lives

Monday, March 1, 2010

I have the honor of being a guest blogger on the blog of Melusine, an online journal of literature and art. (I am also delighted to have a poem in the current issue.) The blog post is about boredom, something I always dismissed, but am now taking a new look at.

A few years ago someone said that time plays a major role in my poetry. If that’s the case, I’m not surprised. It is a major theme in my life--my use of time, our allotted time, the accumulation of time. What I was thinking about when I wrote the piece on boredom was how we have so many tiny and often inconsequential demands on our time that we don’t even have enough time to get bored, and I think that’s a loss.

I used to have no tolerance for boredom. “Only boring people are bored,” was my watchword. But I’ve begun to think that what used to be boredom may now be more aptly called “unstructured time.” Every minute of our lives seems to have its demands, its--as Keats said in a way-pre-Google age--"irritable reaching after fact." Few of those demands are important and most of them are set up by us.

I thought about this--and wrote about it--recently when I found myself tempted by a shiny new smartphone. I have to confess that I have still not entirely closed the door on that, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to make my decision in a way that still keeps me in charge of my time.

So here’s my new thinking on boredom. If we fill up every available minute, maybe we’ll never experience boredom. But maybe, too, we’ll never have the available time to think the thoughts that would be most creative or would make us most aware or would in some way add to the pleasure and significance of our lives. Maybe the free time, the unconnected time, to be a little bored would be the best gift we could give ourselves.

Here’s a challenge I'm setting for myself and offering to you, too: unplug a little. Not completely, just a little. See what comes into your mind. Maybe think of it as the new and improved boredom.

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